Swaps Regulator Hit With Labor Complaint After Union Talks Stall

  • CFTC ranked worst place to work among eight financial agencies
  • Employee relations strained after regulator gained new powers

Tensions between the main U.S. derivatives regulator and its employees are rising as labor negotiations over working conditions have stalled.

Late last month, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission workers’ union filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the agency, accusing it of purposefully delaying talks on a collective bargaining agreement that lays out everything from sick leave policies to dress codes. With only a few weeks of negotiations left, the union said the CFTC still hasn’t responded to most of its contract proposals.

“The only conclusion is that CFTC is stonewalling and wants to deprive its employees of the benefits and protections they deserve,” the National Treasury Employees Union wrote in a note this week to its CFTC chapter members.

Relations between the CFTC and its employees have been strained over the past few years after the agency gained new powers to police the over-the-counter swaps markets under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. Though the law brought extra responsibilities, the agency’s budget has been stagnant.

CFTC workers voted to unionize two years ago after it became clear that their pay and benefits had failed to keep pace with employees at regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. A 2015 report on the best places to work in the federal government by the Partnership for Public Service ranked the CFTC last among eight financial regulatory agencies.

Budget Constraints

Steve Adamske, a CFTC spokesman, declined to comment. Chairman Timothy Massad, who early in his career was a legal intern at the AFL-CIO labor federation, told a Senate hearing last year that the while the agency was negotiating with the union in good faith, it also was “very mindful of the budget constraints” it faces.

The unfair labor practice complaint, filed on Oct. 28 with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, contends the CFTC is delaying negotiations by failing to submit proposals. The union asked the authority to direct the agency “to cease and desist from engaging in bad faith bargaining,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.

CFTC workers, who across the board received a one percent pay raise this year, are in separate discussions with the agency over salary and benefits. That process has also turned acrimonious, according to some employees.

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